Bill Belichick is probably lying. Tom Brady is probably lying. But here’s the thing: they know it doesn’t matter. They know there’s no way to prove who deflated the footballs, so there’s no way to blame any one person individually. The blame gets dissipated over the entire organization, and then, because no one person did it, it’s almost as if nobody did it. The footballs were systematically and consistently altered to match the previously-stated preference of their star quarterback, and therefore to impart a competitive advantage. It was the perfect crime, and the league can’t pinpoint the criminal even though the proof is sitting right in front of them.
Which, of course, is ridiculous. Why is the league even bothering to figure out who did it? That would be like Al Queda asking Barack Obama which soldier killed bin Laden. No, they’d want to punish the entire country. They’d want revenge on the citizens who put the man in power who deployed the troops who were controlled by generals who lead a mission to kill bin Laden. Why look for the peon who executed the master plan of Bill Belichick?
Does it matter if Belichick knew about it? No. He’s responsible for his organization. Does it matter if deflating the footballs was in his master plan? No. Does he even have a master plan? Yes. It’s called, “Win at All Costs.” Making the footballs easier to throw and catch seems like a logical extension of everything the Belichick Patriots have ever done. All’s fair in love and war, and football is war, so if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.
As Richard Sherman so astutely put it, the New England Patriots played the risk-reward perfectly. Like many of the things that come out of Sherman’s mouth, this was genius. Let’s take a look at how his quotation explains both sides of things: the risk, and the reward.
The only risk that the Patriots took by deflating the footballs is that they would get caught and punished. Clearly they didn’t think there was too great a chance of getting caught, since apparently they’d been doing this at least since Week 7, the last time they played the Colts. If that’s the case, the blame falls on the NFL for not doing a better job of enforcing that rule.
The Patriots also didn’t think the punishment would be severe enough to outweigh the reward. It’s not like the NFL is going to kick them out of the Super Bowl, so whatever punishment, short of the forfeiture of a playoff game, is insufficient. The blame, once again, falls on the NFL for not putting in sufficiently deterrent punishments.
Another risk you might throw in there is the public perception of the team, but it’s clear they don’t care about that. For reference, see Spygate, Aaron Hernandez, the trick plays against the Ravens, or any Bill Belichick press conference ever.
Now here’s where the Richard Sherman explanation really shines. There has to be a reward that outweighs the risk. We established that the risk wasn’t really all that risky, but it’s not nothing. So the reward must be greater than… not nothing. If there were no reward, i.e., competitive advantage, they wouldn’t have taken the risk. The fact that the Patriots deflated the footballs proves, with one hundred percent certainty, that they believed that there was a significant advantage to be gained from doing so.
Update: I THINK WE FOUND THE REWARD.
The big picture
Here we are getting caught up in the details of this stupid story, interviewing Bill Nye the Science Guy, voluntarily listening to Bill Belichick speak, and the NFL absolutely loves it. Ben Collins at SBNation summed it up nicely:
Yes, the problem with the NFL is deflated footballs. That’s the one. It’s not the complicated stuff we have chosen to forget because we ran out of energy as the league stalled and stalled until the clock ran out. It’s not the commissioner who ignored a domestic violence crisis, then hired the same company that negotiated the league’s latest TV deal to conduct an “independent investigation” to absolve the NFL and commissioner of any wrongdoing. It’s not the concussion problem, either, or the Pro Bowler on trial for allegedly murdering three people over two seasons.
Everybody’s got ESPN on the TV 24-7, waiting with baited breath from the latest update from Chris Mortensen or Adam Schefter, listening to Tom Brady joyfully lie through his teeth, and watching Bill Belichick make such a mockery of the whole thing that you can’t help but imagine him bursting into laughter the minute he walks off that stage. If the NFL really cared to stop this from ever happening in the future, they would punish the entire Patriots organization by putting the Colts in the Super Bowl. Instead, they’re searching for the soldier who committed a crime that will go unpunished, when, in reality, the entire country is to blame.